through the eyes by Don Druick, directed by Brian Quirt, with Richard McMillan. Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Runs to February 9, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $18-$25, Sunday pwyc-$18. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNNn
in through the eyes, playwright Don Druick carves away at the surface of his characters' lives to reveal the essence of autocrat Louis XIV's court. Sculpting nuanced, textured layers of emotion, politics and desire, he uses as his instrument -- and ultimately his subject -- a nameless courtier whose increasing misfortunes allow him to feel compassion more deeply.Because he speaks some Italian, the narrating courtier is translator for Gianlorenzo Bernini, the great sculptor who comes to Paris to create a marble bust of Louis. Both Bernini and Louis are demanding masters, though, and the courtier finds himself caught between their demands.
Carefully hopscotching through a social world where a wrong word or glance can mean death, and simultaneously carrying on a secret affair, the initially condescending courtier grows closer to the Italian and develops a fresh humanity that grows out of his quiet, ineffable despair.
Playing all the characters superbly, Richard McMillan presents a myriad of figures by changing tone, casting a glance, pursing his lips or turning a smile into a smirk. Working in the round under Brian Quirt's detailed direction, he turns viewers into Louis's ever-eavesdropping court, spying on intrigues and actions in a world where "animals growl and bare their fangs."
There's an electric immediacy to the production, staged on Carolyn M. Smith's marbleized floor and suggestively lit by Paul Mathiesen. It's through the statue's eyes that Bernini plans to show Louis's soul, but on a deeper level we see the action through the courtier's gaze and are led into his increasingly sensitized heart.